Central America is one of the most vibrant and diverse areas in the world to visit. While you’re challenging yourself to learn more Spanish, we hope that you’re dreaming of where it can take you! Combine your love of the language with a passion for exploration and you may find yourself on one of the best vacations imaginable. To help you out, we have compiled a list of some of the top travel destinations for you to investigate and to enjoy! Buen viaje!
Ambergris Caye is the largest island off the coast of the mainland of Belize. It has a little bit of everything to suit everyone’s taste, whether you are traveling alone, in a big group, or with family. Enjoy water activities like scuba diving, snorkeling, sailing, and parasailing. Then head to the jungle for hiking, zip lining, or simple nature walks. You will also find here the western hemisphere’s longest-running coral reef system that is full of underwater wildlife. Take advantage of all the natural beauty when visiting this gorgeous place!
How Safe Is It?
While traveling it is important to take safety into account and use common sense. This island is considered safe with some reported instances of theft (of passports or credit cards), burglary, and sexual harassment toward lone women. Always keep your personal items in a secure location and try not to flash expensive items while out in public.
The great majority of island dwellers speak English, but you will also hear Spanish and Creole, the local mestizo dialect. More than 80% of locals speak Spanish, so feel free to use it as you travel along!
The long, skinny island of Roatan sits atop the beautiful and ancient Mesoamerican barrier reef. Imagine soft sandy beaches, palm trees swaying with a light breeze, and crystal waters. This island has what you’re looking for, whether it be absolute luxury or simple budget travel and lodging. You will definitely want to get into the water however you can, so join a glass-bottom boat tour, rent a kayak, or charter a fishing trip! Once you’re ready to come back to land, plan a trip to the art or underwater museums, visit the iguana conservatory, go bicycling, or gather a group for mini-golf. The options for fun and entertainment are truly endless.
How Safe Is it?
While safer than mainland Honduras, we advise you to enjoy your travel experience more so on the west end of the island. Take greater precautions while visiting the east end of the island which is less developed and less populated.
Although most islanders speak English, a big group of mainland Hondurans finds their way there for work. This means that even though English is the most commonly-spoken language on this island, there are plenty of opportunities to use your Spanish. Keep in mind that the English you will hear is a unique dialect of the region and might not be what you’re expecting!
This little town in Costa Rica, often simply called “La Fortuna,” is 10 kilometers away from one of the most popular and powerful volcanoes in the country: Arenal Volcano. Until 2010, it was the most active volcano in all of Costa Rica. With more than a million visitors per year, this area provides plenty of entertainment for all types of tourists. You will find amazing spas that take advantage of the natural thermal waters from Arenal and various hot springs to enjoy. Go sightseeing at the miraculously tall waterfall, La Fortuna Catarata, that towers upward of 70 meters. For more adventure and physical activity, try horseback riding, canoeing, fishing, hiking or jump onto a canopy tour!
Is It Safe?
If you plan on traveling between towns (Monteverde to La Fortuna, for example) by bus then you will definitely need to keep an eye on your bags! If you can avoid it, try not to put them in the rack above your seat. Aside from this important detail, traveling around this area is safe if using common sense.
Most locals do not speak English and they will expect that you have brushed up on your Spanish skills before trying to communicate! Check out our Travel Spanish Guide for useful phrases you can practice on your plane ride.
Panama City shines bright as a bustling metropolitan area where international bankers and businessmen wine and dine. Luckily, it is also accessible for the budget traveler if you know where to look and you know how to negotiate taxi fare! After a day or so of cultured exploration, non-stop traffic and crazy city life, take a day trip to the beach on the Carribean or Pacific shore or watch the boats come and go through the famous Panama Canal.
Is It Safe?
In areas like this with a highly concentrated population, it is important to keep a vigilant eye. Beware of service guides who wish to give you a tour. Often they will begin the ‘tour’ without your consent and soon become aggressive when asking for payment. Keep your belongings tucked away in an inaccessible pocket or bag.
Spanish is the national language of Panama, while around 14% of inhabitants speak English. Make sure to practice asking for directions, ordering meals, and checking into hotels or other lodgings. Improve your skills even more by joining one of the various Spanish Schools offered in Panama!
Granada is a calm and relaxing place with plenty of architectural beauty. You will see attractive and colorful colonial buildings everywhere with horse-drawn carriages moving in between. Take a stroll on land or visit Lake Nicaragua and take a boat tour. For even more adventure, climb one of the nearby volcanoes or go hiking in one of the wildlife preserves.
Is It Safe?
In Granada, violent crime is extremely low, and as a traveler, you will only need to worry about pickpockets. Sometimes, due to civil unrest, Nicaragua will close its borders to travelers and so it is necessary to check on its status before planning your vacation.
Very few locals speak English,so Granada is an excellent place to challenge yourself to speak more Spanish. Bring a travel guide along with you in order to have the phrases you need at your fingertips!
In Southwestern Nicaragua, located along the shore of the Pacific Ocean, sits the colorful town of San Juan del Sur. The temperature stays at a fairly warm temperature for most of the year with a bit of cold from November to January. It has several different beaches to choose from that combine perfectly with hot weather. No wonder it is considered a hub for beach parties! Surf the waves, go swimming, sunbathe your heart out, and then go investigate the giant Jesus statue that overlooks the village.
Is It Safe?
San Juan del Sur has grown in popularity over the years, which means that there are more opportunistic types who are attempting to prey on visitors. Again, it’s a place where common sense will keep you out of trouble. Avoid being out at night on your own and keep all of your belongings in a safe spot.
San Juan del Sur is a fantastic place to build your Spanish skills through one of their tailored Spanish school options. From one-time lessons to immersion and community outreach, there is a way for everyone to learn.
Quirigua is a UNESCO World Heritage Site located in Guatemala, the heart of the Mayan civilization. This amazing archaeological site has ancient carved monuments that show Mayan mythology and important historical events. Visit one of the many museums that explain more about Mayan history and provide fun small-scale models of what the area looked like long ago.
Is It Safe?
While touring this ancient city, it is necessary to keep items of importance in a safe space. Other than possible theft, there are no other major precautions to take.
While you can get a tour guide to bring the city to life for you in English, you could just as easily ask for a tour in Spanish! Expand your vocabulary through a real-life history lesson! After you visit Quirigua, take a bus to any of these other incredible destinations in Guatemala and head over to Homeschool Spanish Academy for fun and practical Spanish lessons.
La Ruta de las Flores is called la ruta because it is just that: a route. It is a passage of blooming flowers that grow along 20 miles of five main colonial towns and coffee plantations. The best time to go in order to see the blooms is between November and February. There are plenty of other activities to explore along the way including a 7-Waterfall hike in Juyayua, ziplining in Apaneca, and going on a coffee tour in any of the other villages along the route.
Is It Safe?
Exploring this route is traditionally done by chicken bus, where you will need to exercise caution with your personal belongings. Make sure to keep them close to your body and, if possible, avoid leaving them in the rack above the seats.
You will have many chances to use your Spanish! In each of the towns along the route, you will need your skills to order food, talk to locals, find lodging, learn more about the history of the towns, and ask for directions.
Best Trip Ever
Now that you are equipped with all the best travel destinations in Central America, you can start packing. You can practice your Spanish while you explore some of the greatest spots between North and South America. Want the best Spanish learning experience before your trip? Take a class with professional, friendly teachers at Homeschool Spanish Academy for an awesome head start to your travel. Enjoy the best trip of your life and maybe you’ll be able to add even more great destinations to our list!Read More
By now, you probably know a couple of words in español: hola, adiós, ¿dónde está la biblioteca? However, have you ever thought of where Spanish comes from? Did it just pop up one day in Spain, or is there more to it? Today we’re going to explore the history of Spanish because it didn’t just magically appear! Language is more of a living creature that evolves with the passage of time. People are the vehicle of language, and language is what gives us humans the ability to communicate our inner worlds in such a detailed fashion! It’s a win-win situation! Join me today as we trace back the history of Spanish language! If you want the short version, download the timeline here:
Maybe you would prefer to download the whole blog as a PDF. You can review and study it with your Spanish learner, and even test their knowledge with a quick exercise at the end!
History of Spanish and History of Spain
The history of the Spanish language is closely tied to the history of Spain. As groups of people moved through what is now recognized as the country of Spain, multiple languages came and went! Some of them left a big mark, while others barely brushed through. These migrations have always taken place – humans have constantly moved through territories and “secure borders” (like we now have) were certainly not a thing 5,000 years ago!
Let’s start with some useful vocabulary! In Spanish, there are two ways to refer to the Spanish language:
*The literal English translation of castellano is Castillian. However, the English term refers to specific varieties of Spanish only, not to the Spanish language as a whole. The Spanish castellano can refer to either the Spanish language as a whole or to specific varieties. The term comes from Castilla, the region in Spain where Spanish came to life!
History of Spanish: A Jigsaw Puzzle
When we think of Spanish – or any language – we see a whole: a language! Or maybe we think about the elements we learned when studying it: words, grammar, pronunciation, spelling. For today, we’ll think of Spanish as a historical jigsaw puzzle with interchangeable, multicultural pieces that come in various sizes. Just think about it: there was a time when the Spanish we now know didn’t exist. However, all the pieces of the puzzle were already scattered all around the world. They eventually found their way to one another, and so created a beautiful and diverse mosaic of language. Let’s read more on the history of Spanish and how this jigsaw puzzle came to be!
Putting Together the Pieces of the Puzzle
A long long time ago
5000 years ago, the ancient indigenous peoples of (now) Spain, the Iberians, spoke their own Iberian language. This language even had its own script and many of the inscriptions they wrote still survive today! This piece of the puzzle is a really tiny one as their writing system disappeared with the conquest of the Roman Empire some 2000 years ago, and very few words can be understood now. As you may have guessed, the Iberian Peninsula (now Spain and Portugal) owes its name to its first inhabitants, the Iberians!
3000 years ago, the Celts started to make their way south to the northern part of the Iberian Peninsula. They came with their own Celtic language (also called Common Celt or Proto-Celt)! Nowadays, there are still 6 Celtic languages that evolved from that one Celtic language from a long time ago: Irish, Scottish Gaelic, Manx, Welsh, Cornish, and Breton. Some of these languages are in danger of becoming extinct, just as it happens in Guatemala with Mayan Languages. Read more about what is happening to Mayan languages here! Many words we use in Spanish are of Celtic origin, so this piece of the puzzle is a little bit bigger! Some examples are:
bruja (witch), gancho (hook), carro (car), añicos (smithereens)
The Iberians and Celts coexisted in Spain until the Celtic people changed so much because of the Iberian influence that Celtiberians came to existence. Celtiberians spoke the Celtiberian language and used the Iberian script that they borrowed from the Iberians, but they were considered Celts.
A long time ago
Phoenicians, Carthaginians, and Greeks
Phoenicians, Carthaginians, and Greeks all came to the Iberian Peninsula between the 15th and 4th century BCE to found colonies. While their impact on agriculture, economy, and mining was substantial, their influence on language wasn’t.
In modern Spanish, however, there are a lot of words that come from Greek! Greek didn’t really have much impact on the puzzle of Spanish when the Greeks came to Spain, but Latin and Arabic had already been greatly influenced by Greek. So the great amount of words with Greek origin in Spanish has more to do with the influence of Greek on Latin and Arabic, and less to do with a direct adoption of Greek words by the indigenous Spanish people. Some examples of Greek origin adopted through Latin are:
academia (academy), carta (letter), diamante (diamond), fósforos (matchstick)
The Romans arrived in the Iberian Peninsula some 2200 years ago. They got there because they were at war with the Carthaginians, who had already occupied a significant part of Spain. After a lot of back and forth that included three wars, known as the Punic Wars (that lasted over 100 years), the Romans finally defeated the Carthaginians. 200 years later, they conquered the whole of Spain! As such, the Iberian Peninsula became a part of the Roman Empire.
The Romans brought along their culture and language, which was Vulgar Latin (vulgar means common – Common Latin, like the Common Greek). Romans were all about individuals having rights, so they never violently forced their language on the inhabitants of the Iberian Peninsula. They did, however, encourage them to learn the language through other more effective means: creating documents only in Latin and opening Latin schools for people to be able to learn.
The Romans occupied Spain for 700 years. In this extended period of time, Latin was greatly influenced by the languages that were spoken in the peninsula when the Romans arrived. By the first century AD, the modified version of Latin was spoken throughout the entire Iberian Peninsula!
Latin is by far the biggest – and central – piece of the puzzle! Every other piece connects around this one. Latin is the language that evolved and adapted elements from other languages to eventually become Spanish!
The Moors came to Spain in the year 711. They conquered Spain and stayed until 1492, the same year Christopher Columbus discovered America! They arrived in Spain because there were (again) some wars. They were called by some friends in Spain to help with the wars but ended up staying and occupying the territory for almost 800 years! As the Romans did before them, the Moors also brought along culture and language!
The language of the Moors was (and still is – yay to our first still living language!) Ḥassāniyyah Arabic, a dialect of Arabic. In the 781 years that the Moors occupied Spain, the modified Latin (that will soon turn into Spanish) started adopting A LOT of Arabic words. The Moors also introduced the Arabic numerals and the numbering system, and they contributed greatly to the fields of architecture, religion, agriculture, and education.
Almost 800 years of occupation are more than just brushing through. Arabic’s piece of the puzzle is rather significant when compared to the other languages we’ve talked about before Latin became THE LANGUAGE of Spain. Moors brought along with them many new things. All of them had no name in Latin because you don’t have a name for something that doesn’t exist in your world. Some examples of Arabic words that eventually made their way into Spanish are:
almohada (pillow), azúcar (sugar), ajedrez (chess) barrio (neighborhood)
Interesting fact: During the Moorish occupation, all the cultures – and religions – coexisted peacefully, and some temples were used both for Christian and Muslim services. The marriage between Christians and Muslims was also common and gave birth to a new culture: the Mozarabs. As we’ve seen multiple times, with culture comes language: the Mozarabic!
1492 and the History of Spanish
The year 1492 is a special year for Spain. Three major events occurred that greatly affected the course of history:
- The fall of Granada, the last Muslim stronghold in Spain. Subsequent expulsion of the Moors.
- The expulsion of the Spanish Jews (Sephardic Jews) after they had lived in Spain for centuries.
- Christopher Columbus discovered America.
Fall of Granada
In 1469, Prince Ferdinand, heir to the crown of Aragón, and Queen Isabella of Castile married. Their united forces helped achieve the fall of Granada, the last Muslim stronghold in Spain. This brought to an end the 700 years of Moorish invasion. Language: Due to the importance of their union – and the territories they had together – the dialect spoken in Castile became the official language of Spain. The name of the dialect spoken in Castile was Castillian. El dialecto de Castilla era el castellano. Thus, Classical Spanish came to life.
Expulsion of Sephardic Jews
Jews that had peacefully lived and coexisted for centuries with Muslims and Christians were forced to choose between staying in Spain and converting to Catholicism or leaving Spain, their homes, and wealth behind. Language: Many Jews chose to leave Spain and settled in the Ottoman Empire. They took with them the Spanish language, as it had been their language for centuries. Eventually, the Spanish they brought along combined with Hebrew, Turkish, Aramaic, Bulgarian, and Greek elements became Ladino or Judaeo-Spanish.
Christopher Columbus discovers America
In August 1492, Christopher Columbus sailed from Europe with three ships and accidentally discovered America while trying to find a better and faster route to Asia. The colonization of the New Continent by the Spanish Crown of Castille begins. Language: As colonization began, Spanish spread throughout North, Central, and South America. The fact that we speak Spanish in Guatemala is a direct result of that!
The Spanish in America
As we noticed before, the Spanish were not necessarily accepting of other cultures and religions. The Moors were completely expelled from Spain after the Fall of Granada. The Jews were given the option to convert into Catholicism or leave the country. What was bound to happen after the discovery of America in that same year? Take into account that the indigenous people of America didn’t share culture, language, or religion with their conquerors!
When the Spanish came to America, they put a tremendous effort into eradicating the culture, religion, and language of the indigenous people. Unlike the Romans who accepted individual freedom and didn’t impose language or religion on their conquered land, the Spanish enslaved the indigenous population and used force to impose their religion, language, and culture. This is sad news for history lovers, as many manuscripts of older civilizations were lost to the hands of the Spanish who were unaccepting of another religion and view of the world.
What happened to the Spanish language in America? Each region contributes a tiny little piece to the puzzle!!! This is the reason why Spanish all throughout America has so many diverse accents, words, structures, and sayings! How and why did this happen? Remember our Chanin blog post where we talked about Guatemala having 24 official languages? Now imagine that amplified throughout the ENTIRE CONTINENT! Each country has several cultures spread and all these different cultures have a language of their own. Each and every one of these languages influenced Spanish!
This puzzle of the Spanish language isn’t finished yet! Nor do I think that it will ever be. To me, it’s more of a never-ending puzzle that humanity will keep building piece by piece. Humans and society keep changing, and as we change, so does language!
Okay, enough of a history class for the day! Let’s come back to today and the fact that we have the best tools for you to learn Spanish! Come have FREE CLASS with us to learn more about how we can help you improve your MODERN Spanish! Be sure to download the free PDF as well to review and study at your own convenience.Read More
It’s 2019. The internet has given us so many more connections than we ever dreamed possible. News travels the globe in just minutes. We can interact with people from other countries and cultures…if we have a common language. Even though English has become the international language, knowing only English can greatly inhibit you in the global community. If you are thinking of learning a second language, check out these top 6 reasons to start with Spanish!
1. Second Most Spoken Language
You may be surprised by this – a lot of people think that Spanish isn’t that common worldwide. However, in terms of native speakers, Spanish ranks number two as the most spoken language in the world.
The first is Chinese, of course, with about 1.2 billion native speakers, or 15.6% of the world population. Spanish takes the silver with 400 million native speakers, or 5.2% of the population. In third place, we have English, at 360 million native speakers, or 4.7%.
If we count the number of non-native speakers, English, being the international language of business and commerce, comes in at a close second with almost a billion speakers. Spanish is then bumped down to number 4, with 527 million native and non-native speakers.
If you are trying to pick a language to learn to be able to communicate with a large portion of the population, it would make sense to learn either Chinese or Spanish. Spanish, however, has something that gives it a special draw.
2. Category 1 Language
This special draw comes in how easy it is to learn as a native English speaker. The Foreign Service Institute (FSI) has created a ranking system to show how long it would take a native English speaker to reach a proficiency level in each language.
Category 1 languages are closely related to English and take about 575-600 hours to reach proficiency. Before you say that’s a lot of time, Category 5 languages, such as Chinese and Arabic, take about 2200 hours to reach proficiency! Yeah – let’s go back to those first languages that take a quarter of the time to learn.
In this first category we see languages such as French, Italian, and – yup, you guessed it – Spanish. As someone who learned Spanish and has moved on to other languages, I can attest to this rating. The alphabet, sentence structure, and basic grammar are very similar to English. Even the vocabulary is sometimes so comparable that I get confused about whether I’m using the English or Spanish spelling. I often must stop and think about which language I’m using because a large portion of the vocabulary is either the same (like with neutral – neutral) or extremely close in spelling and pronunciation (like with direction – dirección).
When I first started learning Spanish, I was amazed by how much I actually understood – I could make out vocabulary I had never learned just because of its similarity to English.
Now, it’s not all rainbows and butterflies. There are some difficult aspects to any language. However, if we compare some of the other world languages, Spanish starts to look a lot easier – even with that tricky subjunctive tense and all those verb conjugations.
3. Growing Number of Spanish Speakers in the US
So we’ve established that Spanish is one of the most common languages in the world and that it is fairly easy to learn. But … why should you decide to learn it over, let’s say, Dutch or Portuguese (which also fall into Category 1)?
Well, it’s close to home. The vast majority of the countries in North and South America speaks Spanish. It’s not like Spanish is spoken only in a remote country on the other side of the world. No. It is spoken in over a dozen countries that neighbor the US, and the number of speakers in the US is growing each year.
As of 2015, there were 53 million Spanish speakers in the United States alone. That’s 16.5% of the population. In 2017, Hispanics accounted for over 18% of the population, and that number is expected to increase by 1% every 5 years.
Spanish is all around us. It makes sense logically to learn Spanish as a second language so that we can communicate with 18% of our country’s population. Why spend hundreds of hours learning a foreign language you may never use when Spanish is becoming so prevalent right here in our own country?
4. Travel Options
Of course, I know that not everyone wants to stay in the States. I completely understand that – I started traveling at 16! For me, speaking at least a little bit of the native language is so important – not only to show respect but to survive in that country and be able to talk with the locals. It can be really frustrating to be in a foreign country and not be able to ask for what you need or have a conversation with the person sitting next to you. Trust me. I’ve been there.
So, you may be in a similar situation, looking to learn a second language for travel purposes. I’m actually doing the same right now – I love Korean culture, so I am learning the language in hopes that I make it to South Korea someday! The downside of my language choice, however, is that only two countries speak the language – my travel options are quite limited.
However, there are over 20 countries and territories that speak Spanish worldwide – there’s even a country in Africa that speaks Spanish! Therefore, if you are itching to see the world, start learning some Spanish! It will take you to North America, South America, Europe, and even Africa! Whether you are traveling for work, pleasure, or education, speaking Spanish gives you so many more choices on where to go.
5. A Whole New World
Or should I say ‘worlds.’ Since there are so many places that speak Spanish around the world, there is no one specific culture that comes with the language. If you took Spanish in school, you may have learned a bit about Mexican culture, with Day of the Dead and Cinco de Mayo. However, there are well over a dozen other countries and territories that speak Spanish. If you decide to take the plunge and learn this language, you will gain access to numerous cultures. Remember learning Spanish isn’t just about learning vocabulary and grammar – it’s so much more.
“A different language is a different vision of life.”– Federico Fellini
One of the most interesting things about being bilingual is how I change when I speak each language. The way I express myself, how I think about things, how I communicate – it all changes depending on the language I’m speaking. Why? Because language is so intertwined with the culture that you cannot learn one without the other. It is a beautiful experience!
Now, I live and work in Guatemala, so I learned (and am still learning) about the Guatemalan culture specifically. However, I often speak Spanish with people from other countries, which gives me the opportunity to learn about even more cultures that speak Spanish. I could learn about these countries and their cultures in a classroom at school, but it just wouldn’t be the same. Speaking the language of the country gives us so much more insight into the inner-workings of the culture. Take slang for example. There are about 20 different ways to say ‘how are you’ or ‘what’s up’ in Spanish – it all depends on the region. By learning some phrases from each country, you get a glimpse of how the people think and interact with each other, which is something a textbook could never teach you.
6. More Opportunities
Learning any language can open the door to a myriad of opportunities. The moment you say you know a language, people start to depend on you for their communication needs. This makes you that much more valuable in the workplace, especially in this era of technology where everyone – no matter what language they speak – wants to stay connected.
We are a global community, which means we need to find ways to bridge the communication gap. By speaking Spanish, you can connect with the 400 million native speakers or over 100 million people who speak Spanish as a second language. Let me tell you – it is immensely rewarding to meet someone and communicate with them in our mutual second language – Spanish. It is actually more common than you think!
The opportunities given to you by knowing a second language are endless. You can work abroad, go to school in a Spanish-speaking country, volunteer and truly connect with the community…and the list goes on and on. Learning Spanish is the perfect stepping block to building the future you want.
Alright. I’ve given you several great reasons to learn Spanish. Now go start learning! But…how, you ask? Well, there’s no search for a private tutor near you because we offer live, tailored classes online right in the comfort of your own home! Nothing beats having an experienced native Spanish speaker teach you the ins and outs of the language. Try a free trial class and start changing your future today!
Okay. Before we start today, have a look at this awesome video! After I watched the video, I tried to snap my fingers to chanin-chanin! It didn’t quite work and it made me remember how many years ago, my best friend spent a crazy amount of time trying to get me to do it “right.” Despite her efforts and 25 years of being Guatemalan, I still can’t make the snapping sound. Now the important question: were you able to do it? It’s okay if you can’t! That makes two of us! Either way, this expression and hand gesture has an important influence on Guatemalan culture.
Chanin, chanin-chanin, or the hand movement that accompanies those words, is ingrained in Guatemalan culture in an inexplicable way. Whether or not they actually say the words, everyone does this hand movement. Some people do it everywhere, others do it only in the familiarity of their homes. Some make it snap, while others just shake their hands like pom poms (and I raise my hand to this!!!). The video got me thinking that I do it a lot (and I mean a LOT) more often than I initially thought I do. It’s just one of those things that you learn at a very young age because everyone around you does it!
What is ‘chanin chanin’?
Let’s divide this in two and explore its meaning:
- Words: Saying ‘chanin’ or ‘chanin-chanin’
- Gesture: The famous finger snapping hand movement
The origin of the word chanin
Guatemala’s official language is Spanish. However, different cultural groups across the country speak another 24 officially recognized languages! Yes, that’s a lot of languages for one country! 22 out of those 24 languages are Mayan languages spoken by indigenous people.
Now, going back to chanin and Guatemalan Spanish. Because of the cultural exchange that exists between the various groups in Guatemala, Mayan languages have influenced – and still are influencing – Spanish greatly! Many words we use in Guatemalan Spanish, like chanin, originate from a Mayan language. Chanin, in particular, means apúrate, or hurry up.
To practice some Spanish reading, visit Guatemala’s official page on our linguistic heritage: Guatemala, un País con Diversidad Étnica, Cultural y Lingüística. There are also some maps for you to see where these different cultures and languages exist! You can also check out these Top 5 Spring Break Destinations in Guatemala and compare the places listed here to where each Mayan language is spoken.
Origin of the chanin gesture
As for the hand movement, I’ve been asking some abuelitas, and no one really knows where it comes from. I can only assume that someone, one day, really needed to get something done. So, they started shaking their hands to communicate a sense of urgency to another person who spoke a different one of the 24 languages. Since they couldn’t understand each other with words, hand gestures had to do the job!
Imagine if you’re in the middle of something and someone starts frantically shaking their hands to signal that you should hurry up – believe me – you’ll hurry up!
The Languages of Guatemala
Languages are directly related to ethnic groups and culture. There are four different ethnic groups in Guatemala and one uses different languages:
Learn more about Guatemala’s culture and ethnic groups here!
*Information on the number of native speakers from 2002 Census.
Spanish in the context of indigenous languages in Guatemala
Although Spanish is the “main” official language of Guatemala, a big percentage of the population does not speak Spanish! But how does this happen? The Spanish arrived in Guatemala almost 500 years ago in 1524 AD and as part of their colonization, they taught the indigenous people Spanish.
While 500 years may seem like enough time for everyone to learn Spanish, Guatemala is a country divided (and united!) by different cultures and landscapes. The various groups did not always accept a new language being imposed on them (who would?). Plus, the fact that some villages are so far removed from political, economic, or cultural centers allowed for many to just keep living their life without needing to learn a new language.
This is all now changing, but we’ll talk more about Spanish in Guatemala in another blog post! In the meantime, you can read a little something on Guatemalan history here.
Something to keep in mind: The Spanish of each Spanish-speaking country is greatly influenced by the languages the indigenous populations spoke or still speak! That’s the reason why there are sometimes big differences in the words the people of different Spanish-speaking countries use.
Y ahora, and now, exploremos the other languages of Guatemala!
According to the 2002 census, 41% of the Guatemalan population identify themselves as indigenous (descendants of the Mayans). All these people speak various Mayan languages, and each one is a descendant of the language Protomaya, which came to life some 6,000 years ago! Yes, it’s been a long time! There are now 22 indigenous Mayan languages spoken in Guatemala, each spoken by a different cultural group! And yes, each one of them is a language of their own (not a *dialect!) with unique grammar, sounds, and vocabulary!
Let’s have a look at these 22 Mayan languages:
*dialect: “A particular form of a language which is peculiar to a specific region or social group.” Thanks, Oxford English Dictionary!
As you can see, only a very small percentage of the population speaks each of the Mayan languages! These numbers have greatly decreased in the last few years and are still rapidly declining due to multiple reasons. For one, technology is only available in certain languages. Similarly, most services and information are only accessible in Spanish. People are also moving to bigger cities for work or studies, and because of that many families consider it more important for their children to learn Spanish than an indigenous Mayan language. Parents and grandparents have struggled to live in a country where they cannot speak the official language, and they don’t want their children to have that same experience.
However, it’s important to mention that Guatemala’s government and different NGOs have started campaigns to promote Mayan language learning in schools and through any possible platform. The thing is, a language is not only a set of words we use to communicate with others. Languages carry the entire historical background of a whole culture! As such, it is important to value and cherish each Mayan language as much as we value and cherish all those beautiful colors we see when we visit a Guatemalan market!
Check out these quotes by Guatemalans to understand a little bit more about the importance of language as part of a culture: Discovering Treasures Through Spanish Quotes
Xinca is a language that doesn’t belong to the same group as the other 22 indigenous Mayan languages. Its origin is unknown, but it used to be widely spoken throughout Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras. While some sources say the language is extinct, others say there are currently only about 100 people who speak this language.
Garifuna is the only language from the Arawakan language family spoken in Central America. All other languages from this language family that are not extinct, are spoken in Brazil, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana, French Guiana, and Suriname. Up until 1797 when the Garifuna people were deported to Honduras, the language was only spoken in some Antillean Islands. Now, a total of about 200,000 people speak this language throughout Honduras, Guatemala, Belize, Nicaragua, and the US. If you’d like to learn more about the Garifuna culture, check out this documentary film in Garifuna language (and English): Garifuna in Peril.
Language is a huge part of culture! When you learn a language, you’re not only learning to say things with other words, but you’re venturing into a new world of ideas and customs. Continue learning more about Guatemalan culture and language by scheduling a FREE CLASS with us today!Read More
“It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Dried flowers as carpets, fruit as carved trumpets, and colorful sawdust for everyone. It’s the half happiest season of all.”
Nope, not Christmas.
We are talking about Semana Santa, or ‘Holy Week’ in English. This is normally the time when Americans and Anglo-Saxons celebrate Easter around the world. However, as always, Latin America gives it more spice, and there’s not an Easter Egg in sight!
Setting the Scene
It is a week for the senses. This is second level to street food. Take a deep breath and smell the burning sawdust and incense you find in novelty stores that makes you feel like you are in Asia. But we aren’t, remember…only Spanish-speaking countries celebrate Semana Santa!
Feast your eyes on all the flowers, fruit, and dyed sawdust used to create elaborate street carpets feathered with green needles from pine trees.
Why the carpets you ask?
These beautiful creations are for people carrying carved wooden floats depicting scenes from the crucifixion story of Jesus. Don’t worry, we will touch more on that later (just keep in mind that it’s called a procession, or procesión).
Just to give you a taste, here is an interview from Semana Santa in Antigua, Guatemala. Yes, we know it is in Spanish, but take it all in. ¡No te preocupes! We will review the main points of their interviews.
Before you watch the inside scoop, here is some basic Semana Santa vocabulary that should help you out:
- Los cucuruchos– people who apply to the church to carry the floats processions through the streets to express their adoration for Christ and the church.
- Cargar– to carry a float in a procession
- Las alfombras– hand made carpets made in the streets for people who are carrying floats
- La procesión – a special parade for Semana Santa
First scene: You see all of the sawdust, flowers, and pine alfombras that we were talking about! The narration presents us with Antigua Guatemala getting ready for one of the biggest procesiones of the 7-day event: La procesión de la Merced Church.
Afterward, there is a pep talk from one of the organizers talking to the first round of 80 men who will carry this GIANT, ONE THOUSAND POUND, hand-carved float from the church of La Merced along the path made of alfombras. He encourages them,
Today is your time to enjoy and take pride in carrying [the float]. Maybe with a tear in your eye, thinking about the love of God and how he has given you the strength to move forward.”
This speaks to the reason why people want to participate in Semana Santa in this way. Holy Week is about Catholic devotion and acknowledgment of Jesus’ suffering in the days leading up to his crucifixion. By carrying and participating in las procesiones, you get to show devotion on a deeper level. If you watch los cucuruchos try to pick up the float, I think we can all say that they are devoted. Go team Semana Santa!
This concept of joy and devotion found in the Catholic Semana Santa traditions spills over into the following interviews.
The first is with a living and breathing cucurucho! He talks about what an honor it is for him to have the privilege to help lead the procession out of the church. Out of all his years of participating in Semana Santa, this is the first time when he does not have to wait on another street block or at a different location to swap with the first turn of cucuruchos.
It is really exciting, especially today because of all of the devotion and love and mysticism that each cucurucho experiences when they cargan (carry).”
The father in the next interview expounds:
Being a cucurucho is considered a big privilege in Semana Santa, as the tradition is passed down through generations,”
He has been practicing the tradition of Semana Santa for 28 years in his household. He is so excited to be celebrating this year with his oldest son.
People also participate as a way to celebrate their gratitude for miracles that they have seen happen in their lives. In the interview with the woman Rosi, she explains that she especially wants to cargar this year because her father recently recovered from a long-term illness. She does it out of thankfulness, and boy are we happy for her too!
Another fun fact that one of the interviewees points out is that Semana Santa is celebrated in most Spanish-speaking countries. The young girl, Monse, says that her family is actually from Chile, but they live in Antigua. At first, she did not like the traditions of making alfombras and having to cargar, but once her grandfather explained it to her she appreciated it from a new and fresh perspective. Most countries in Central and South America celebrate Semana Santa, but they are on a smaller scale with maybe one or two big procesiones, which is nothing compared to the whole week of procesiones in Antigua.
Now we find ourselves at a spectacular scene of music! As the cucuruchos prepare to wait at their stations to carry, the sixty-man band prepares to accompany them with some tunes. This orchestra has been preparing for 6 months just for Semana Santa! It is a full band with trumpets, flutes and, of course, crashing cymbals that can be heard from blocks away as the procesión follows the alfombras from the church.
The Final Product
It is incredible to believe that the planning and execution for only one procesión include seven thousand people and the procesión lasts only for fifteen hours!! Throughout the entire week, there are twenty tree procesiones all around Antigua, but the biggest ones are the ones that start on midnight of the Thursday that leads into Good Friday. People come from all over the world just to participate; turning the forty-five thousand population of Antigua to ONE MILLION PEOPLE.
The only Semana Santa comparable to that of Antigua, Guatemala is in Spain from which Semana Santa was born and was brought over to Latin America. No no no ladies and gentlemen, not an Easter egg in sight when it comes to these Latin American traditions!
So how can you celebrate? The easiest way to participate in Semana Santa is to make an alfombra. We encourage you to go outside and get creative! Use flower petals and pine tree needles to set your base. Now, use those pumpkin carving skills you save for Holloween to the task to carve out figures from fruits and veggies to adorn your carpet in the street. If you need inspiration, check out this how-to guide from Labor of Love with LOTS of pictures! We promise lots of fun and suspicious looks from your neighbors. The point is to enjoy yourself in participating with a tradition that has been blooming since 1521!
This has been HomeSchool Spanish Academy reporting live from Antigua, Guatemala for the Semana Santa Holy Week. Please stay tuned for more fun facts and, YES, pictures galore!
Don’t forget to talk to you Spanish teacher for more information about Semana Santa. Sign up for a Free Class here!
Main picture creditRead More
If you could have all of the money in the world, what would be the first logical thing to do? Well, I assume you would, of course, start with the basics. First, you would buy at least one theme park (we know it would be Disney World). Then you’d acquire the world’s supply of Cheetos! And lastly, why not build a real life Jurassic Park! And after all those purchases, you would totally be in serious need of help between all the accounting and organizational skills needed to run these places!
We cannot really say that we would be able to keep up with the accounting needs of Disney World AND Jurassic Park. We can say with full confidence though that we got your back on the organizational end of things! Well, at least when it comes to the currencies people will be paying with! I’m happy to introduce you to your new Spanish Currency Council! We organize currencies through historical journeys, and we’d love you to think of us more of like a travel agent than a tax assistant!
Do you remember the Fun with Spanish Flags blog we shared with you a few weeks ago? With the help of that post, we learned about the 21 Spanish-speaking countries that have 21 different Spanish flags and also different currencies. Did that help refresh
As your newly appointed Spanish Currency Council, our first matter of duty will be to get organized! To do that, we will need to go over the Peso, the Dollar, and the irregular, independent, and self-named currencies!
Spanish Currency Table
Before we begin, I would like to give you a present to congratulate your recent status as an amusement park owner. It doesn’t matter if it’s Disney World or Jurassic Park! Of course, the best gift your Spanish Currency Council can give you is a very cheesy youtube video! Sing along to a quick summary of what every Spanish speaking country uses as currency. If you simply cannot find the catchiness in the song, here is a list for reference:
To summarize, out of the 21 countries and territories:
- 8 countries use Pesos
- 3 countries use US dollars
- 10 use ‘irregular’ country currencies
With that in mind, let’s explore the “why and how” to this seemingly divided Spanish currencies scenario.
Types of Spanish Currency
Because the economy is always changing, and According to WorldAtlas.com, the countries that use the Peso are as follows:
Well, you are all ready to use, give, and save your Pesos, but what about something more familiar like Dollars? Do you think it will be similar? Well, let’s take a look and see.
Alright, newly made millionaire! Now that you got the basic Spanish Currency down (and hopefully remember our favorite awkward yet helpful Spanish Currency youtube song) as your Spanish Currency Council, we want to finally show you some of the ‘irregular’ Spanish currencies to finally help you master your life as a Spanish-Currency millionaire.
The remaining 10 Spanish Currencies that do not follow the Peso or Dollar usages are more like works of art then they are currencies. Remember our little chat about colonization? Well, these currencies also come from countries that were colonized. Despite that, they kept their heritage embedded in the smaller things, like the names of their currency. Interestingly enough, they are all based on national birds, indigenous groups, and even great warriors and explorers who the people remember…dearly or not. Don’t believe us? We’ll go over this brief description. For curiosity’s sake, check out these facts from our ‘associates’ at Onda Trading Facts.
Whether you are a collector of Spanish currencies, have a huge bucket list to travel to every Spanish-speaking company, or actually DO win that final round of Spanish Quotes from the game show in our last blog (which is why you are now a millionaire), understanding Spanish currency is an essential tool, with or without your Spanish Currency Council. The value of money always changes, but its history does not. Try to put a price on that!Read More
The food: chuchitos, caldos, pupusas, every kind of taco, and a rainbow of colorful tortillas. ¡Qué rico!
The scenery: mountains, beaches, and famous ruins with mangrove rivers leading jungle. Beautiful.
The wildlife: viscous jaguars and scorpions, sweet llamas, and flying squirrels. Alive.
We. Love. Latin America.
So, obviously we want you to come and visit us, but not only that. Let’s plan a summer-long trip. Can you imagine? Sounds great, right? Well, summer is only 5 months away so you have PLENTY of time to pack, update your passport, and book all your hotels. But what about your Spanish?
5 months. Just give us 5 months, and we swear we can get you on the right track right for your trip to Latin America! In fact, you should probably jump over to our latest blog Spanish for Dummies which is a quick guide to get all of your basics and FUNdementals down.
How do you learn ‘Travel Spanish’ in 5 months?
That was the initial pitch. Now comes the ‘How.’ To help you out, we did some investigation. The first was with students from a local English class and we asked them, ‘What advice would you give to travelers who want to learn Spanish in 5 months?’
Oh, the enthusiasm in the ADULT classroom! We had never seen so much enthusiasm even when we brought doughnuts that one time… In the midst of all of the shouts, consejos, and ideas, the most agreed upon methods were:
- Learn key phrases and statements
- Tandem conversation partner
- Practice every day on an application
- Book classes at academies in each country that you visit
Learn key Questions: 6 Q’s
The best thing about travel is that you will most likely be making requests or basic commentary to the native Spanish speakers around you. All of the memory-making is thankfully going to be done with you and your traveling compadres. We trust that you have done the easiest things and booked all of your travel, hotel, and activities before your arrival. However, some of these phrases could possibly help in those areas too.
Learn key Statements: Compliments, Abilities, and Wants
So now that we have all of the questions out of the way, let’s add a little bit of personality to our Spanish for Travelers! Show them what you can do and what you like so you can try to participate in the culture!
Tandem conversation partners:
Woah! All of that Travel Spanish is going to be so useful for you to participate in the culture, advocate for yourself, and travel with such ease. But, what are you going to do when people respond?! Woah! There are so many different kinds of answers for these questions and any other comments that you make. Because of that, we recommend tandem conversation. Bring this list of questions and statements to a native speaker in your own community and pretend you are in the jungle or some other exotic place. You will FOR SURE learn multiple kinds of responses. Check out your local libraries or after school/university programs as well.
If you cannot find a native speaker to help you.
If you cannot find a native speaker to help you through your imaginary jungle – either concrete or full of cobras – we suggest you find recommended online sites like Homeschool Spanish Academy.
Yes, even us at HSA! After all, we are a Spanish academy based in Central America, and all of our teachers are native speakers. Because of this, our classes offer the most most life-like learning experience possible that would help you in your travels! When you get to Guatemala, you could actually say that you have friends here who you have talked to already. Check out our sign-up page to start the tandem conversing NOW!
Practice every day on an application
Tandem conversation, memorizing phrases, and asking questions will really get you far in your Travelers Spanish, but what about vocab and the BASICS? Well, in the midst of our ‘sample advice group,’ there was a HUGE agreement that using applications every day for at least 20 min will help build vocabulary and all of the basics that tandem conversation will not blatantly give you. There was even one native Spanish-speaking student who was learning English AND French on his applications. Because of his experience, he was able to provide great insight. Our top 3 suggestions are:
- Named the best app to learn Spanish by HSA, Duolingo is an interactive way to learn Spanish. Yes, there are tests and quizzes, but there are fun listening, speaking, and visual activities for every learner.
- This is a great application. Not only is it an instant phrasebook full of useful and instantly translated phrases for the country where you are going, but it is also a reliable electronic translator for those SAVE ME IN THE JUNGLE moments.
- Top 4 free Spanish apps of 2019
- Check out our own list of application suggestions! “Maybe you’re looking to start from scratch, or perhaps you are already in Spanish and just need extra support. Well, you’re in luck! We’ve compiled a list of the best Spanish apps of 2019 to learn Spanish for free! Check out which one will work best for you.”
As we talked with our ‘sample group’ of very enthusiastic English students, the final advice that they wanted to give everyone learning Travel Spanish was to keep studying even when you get to your destination. Don’t let all of the awe and wonder of your travels sidetrack you! Also, if you have a question, just ask your teacher. There are so many Spanish academies for travelers all around Latin America. Take Maximo Nivel, for example. You can take classes, have your native teacher show you the culture, and even stay at a local’s home so you can get a true Spanish immersion. How do babies learn a language? By participating to the fullest and eating as many black beans as possible! Why don’t you try it their way?
Alright, travelers! It’s time to get going!
Summer is just around the corner and these next 5 months should give you plenty of time to learn Travel Spanish! As your faithful ‘tips and trip’ advisers in the world of Spanish learning, we are always here to support you. So much so that we are even offering a free trial class with us! We want to help evaluate what your travel Spanish learning needs are and even help to give you a starting point as you work towards your 5-month travel fluency. Click here to sign up for a free class!
Have you ever wondered why Spanish names are so long? As you may have noticed, the names of people in Spanish-speaking countries consist of a first name and two surnames. Traditionally, you will see the first surname of the father followed by the first of the mother. Presently, laws have changed on gender equality and now allow any order, but we normally see the original order. People always use their full name in legal settings. In informal contexts, however, they use their first name and first surname to introduce themselves.
The first name can be simple, such as José (Joseph), or composite such as José Miguel (Joseph Michael). Nevertheless, in the given name, Miguel is not a middle name but is part of the name José Miguel. Contrary to English-speaking countries, the idea of a middle name does not exist and, as such, is very rare to see.
Transmission of Spanish Surnames
The two last names come from what is called a “generational transmission” from both parents. Currently, the two first surnames of each parent are combined. As stated above, the father’s surname is often first while the mother’s surname comes after. Interestingly, the paternal, or father’s, name will eventually eliminate the maternal name of the family line. An example of this is with two parents, Lucía López García and Jorge Rosales Castillo. Their child will most likely use the traditional order and hold a name such as Paola Rosales López. She will marry and her name will change to Paola Rosales Mendoza or Paola Rosales de Mendoza. As you can see, the maternal name has been dropped and replaced by the husband’s name. Nonetheless, the transfer of the father’s surname was not always the norm. Spanish-speaking societies once practiced the transmission of one Spanish surname, choosing between the mother or father.
The Four Categories of Surnames
When looking at Spanish surnames, a clear pattern emerges. History tells us that by the twelfth century, as populations grew, people needed a way to distinguish one name or family from another. They began to follow specific traditions that helped them understand which surname to use. Namely, four types of surnames appeared. They became the origin of most Spanish surnames we see today.
Patronymic and Matronymic Surnames
Patronymic means the surname comes from the father’s first name, while matronymic means it’s from the mother’s name. Now, if you met two men name Juan, you might mix them up. However, by distinguishing who their fathers are, their names suddenly become distinct. The paternal surname was a combination of the man’s father’s name and a suffix meaning “son of”: -ez, -az, -is, -oz (or -es), -as, -os. In other words, someone with the name Juan Fernandez means Juan “son of Fernando”. If he had a son, his name would have been Diego Juanez, Diego “son of Juan.” Given this fact, surnames weren’t at all consistent. Eventually, a specific surname stuck with the family and was passed to future generations. Matronymic surnames are less common, often a result of illegitimate children or a mother of higher noble ranking.
Geographic surnames tell us where the first person with a surname lived. This includes very specific surnames, such as de Soto (from Soto), from families that typically owned land. More general surnames like Iglesias (lived near a church) acted much like nicknames. Similarly, they may refer to what type of land the person lived on. For example, del Valle (from the valley) or de la Vega (from the meadow) depict certain features of the original homeland.
Occupational surnames refer to a person’s job or trade. Two types of occupational surnames are standard and titular. Standard occupational surnames represent a common trade, such as Zapatero (shoemaker) and Barros (an artisan or builder who used clay). Nobility often gave these surnames to the commoners under their rule. Conversely, the nobility used titular occupational surnames that denoted their position. For example, Hidalgo means “nobleman,” and Marques means “marquis.”
Descriptive surnames are less common and much more personal. They refer to a quality, characteristic, or physical trait of a person. It’s worth noting that this type of surname was frequently given to commoners as a form of insult. For this reason, the bulk of these surnames have not survived over time. Those that remain show a fairly neutral trait or a positive attribute. Examples include Bravo (brave), Cano (gray), Cortes (courteous), Delgado (thin), and Orejón (big ear).
Spanish Surnames in Foreign Countries
Entering into a foreign naming system often requires vigilance and necessary changes. One example is when a Spanish person lives under an English naming system. In order to avoid confusion, they may hyphenate their last name, turning Marcela Pérez Rubio into Marcela Pérez-Rubio. In view of the one-surname system used by English-speakers, there may be legal confusion and her name could become Marcela P. Rubio on a government document. This poses a big problem for her identity since, in her home country, her name would be abbreviated as Marcela Pérez R.
Foreign Surnames in Spanish-Speaking Countries
In Spanish-speaking countries, foreign immigrants keep using their cultural naming customs. However, if they choose to obtain citizenship, they must assume a name in the Spanish manner. If the person comes from a culture with a unique family name, they repeat it twice. As a result, an English name “William Stewart Mirren” turns into “William Stewart Mirrén Mirrén.” The law allows a person to adopt the mother’s maiden name if they choose to. Lastly, the Spanish custom connects the first and middle name making it the two first names for legal documents.
Top 50 Most Common Spanish Surnames
The chart below shows the top 50 most common Spanish surnames in Spain. As well, you will see the estimated population of how many people have this particular last name. Take a look at the chart and see how many names you recognize. Do you see which of the suffixes is most common among these names?
Prepositions “de” and “y”
There are times that Spanish surnames include a preposition between the paternal and maternal surnames. Some people choose to use “de” and/or “y” for three main reasons. Firstly, it shows nobility, such as the name of Gabriel de la Cueva y Girón, who was a sixteenth-century nobleman and military leader. Secondly, it denotes location, as is the case for the name Lope Félix de Vega y Carpio (de Vega means “of the meadow”), a famous playwright of undistinguished origin. Lastly, it helps to distinguish between the first name and a surname that could be mistaken for a first name like Antonio Miguel y Morales. In this case, we understand that Miguel is not his second name, but instead the first of his surnames.
Obviously, Spanish surnames give us the chance to learn about a person’s family history. Not only is it fascinating to take a closer look at the meaning of a person’s surname, but it is also educational. By learning how these surnames were created, how they’re used in present day, and how to understand them, we can better comprehend their importance. Furthermore, it allows us to appreciate the complexity of the naming system in Spanish culture.Read More
Spring Break is coming, and you may be thinking about traveling somewhere new. If you don’t yet have a destination in mind, consider Guatemala! People call this small country the land of eterna primavera, or ‘eternal spring’. Guatemalan weather is the perfect spring climate, because of how tropical the country is. There may be some rain, but usually the air is fresh, the sky is blue with a few clouds, and the sun shines without being bothersome. Additionally, there are many different touristic places across the country that fit everyone’s tastes. For example, you can find beaches, volcanoes, Mayan ruins, and the list goes on. Guatemala is the perfect getaway for your Spring Break adventures!
There are so many places you could visit, but I have prepared a list of my top 5 places in the country that you can visit during your Spring Break.
Top 5 Spring Break Destinations in Guatemala
5) San Pedro La Laguna
Guatemala is famous for Lake Atitlán, which is located in the Sololá department. Plenty of people travel to Guatemala during Spring Break just to see this beautiful lake. There are many towns around the lake, but San Pedro La Laguna is the most famous due to its cuisine and multiple places to relax. The variety of restaurants in San Pedro La Laguna is by far the best in Atitlán. There are many exotic places which offer food from other countries, but the best are the ones that offer national food. There are many restaurants and hotels that have a beautiful view of Lake Atitlán and the volcanoes around the lake, so you can enjoy a nice meal with an extraordinary view.
You can also find many coffee shops. You may have already heard about Guatemala because its coffee is famous throughout the world. All the coffee shops and restaurants in San Pedro la Laguna offer coffee that is cultivated by the locals. Make sure to read about all the things you do in San Pedro!
4) Semuc Champey
Semuc Champey is one of the most beautiful natural monuments in Guatemala. It is located in the Alta Verapaz department and is made up of a 300m limestone bridge. Underneath this bridge runs the River Cahabón, which will leave you speechless with its beauty. The river changes colors from green to turquoise to blue because of its crystalline water.
Semuc Champey is attractive to those who enjoy water sports, especially rafting. Many hotels and other companies offer rafting on the river, which is a great way to explore the river.
Another amazing thing to do in Semuc Champey is hiking on the different trails found nearby. Tropical forest surrounds Semuc Champey, and it provides with beautiful sights of local fauna and flora. You won’t want to pass up this opportunity; go ahead and start planning your trip here.
3) Yaxhá National Park
Guatemala is the heart of the Mayan Civilization. There are multiple ruins all throughout the country. The most famous one, and the one you have probably heard about, is Tikal. This ancient city is really beautiful and it has a lot of history involving the Mayans. However, there is another archaeological site in the Petén department that is just as amazing as Tikal, called Yaxhá National Park. This city is just two hours away from Tikal, and it is a secret Mayan city.
Many of the ruins in Yaxhá date from the pre-Columbian Mayan civilization and archeologists are still finding new ruins around the area. Here, you can find Mayan temples, ceremonial sites, sports fields, astronomical observatories, and many other structures built by the Mayans. Plus, an amazing bonus is that you can watch the sunset from the top of one of the Mayan temples. It is such a beautiful experience!
Yaxhá is the best option when visiting Petén during Spring Break. Due to the time of year, Tikal is usually crowded. Yaxhá doesn’t get as crowded because it is not very famous and your experience would be more pleasant. Book your trip to Yaxhá now!
2) La Sierra de los Cuchumatanes
If you are interested in cold weather and hiking activities, Sierra de los Cuchumatanes is the perfect place for you. This is the highest non-volcanic mountain range in Guatemala, and it is located in the Huehuetenango and El Quiché departments. These mountains occupy around 15% of the Guatemalan territory, and because of their altitude, they provide the most amazing sights you will ever see!
The most famous place in Sierra de los Cuchumatanes is the ‘Mirador Juan Diéguez Olaverri’ (see photo above), named after a Guatemalan poet. There are multiple stone engravings with the stanzas he wrote about the mountain range. Additionally, in Sierra de los Cuchumatanes, you can find multiple hiking trails that take you around the mountains. These trails allow you to explore the beautiful flora and fauna that grow in those mountains. If you are interested in booking a hike in los Cuchumatanes, visit this website to get started!
1) Semana Santa in Antigua Guatemala
I really love having Antigua, Guatemala as my number one place to visit during Spring Break because of Semana Santa. Everyone in Guatemala celebrates Holy Week; however, in Antigua, we have one of our most treasured traditions. During Semana Santa, sawdust carpets decorate the streets of Antigua. These carpets are designed to guide the processions. They are made with many colors and show beautiful handmade designs. People dress up and walk around the streets of Antigua carrying figures that represent religious beliefs from the Catholic church.
The whole event is a beautiful feast for the eyes. People participate in processions every day during Semana Santa and tend to decorate not only the streets but also their own houses. So, if you go to Antigua during Semana Santa, you will certainly find every door, window, and street decorated. You will even find small events where locals teach you how to do the sawdust carpets, so you can take part in the tradition and get a taste of Guatemalan culture.
Check out this website for tips on how to make the most out of your trip to Antigua during Semana Santa. Or, if you want to learn more while practicing your Spanish, read this article about Semana Santa!
I hope you find these five places interesting, and that you get to visit at least one of them during your Spring Break. Guatemala is a beautiful country, and it is full of a cultural heritage that can be explored in every touristic place. You only need to visit one place to fall in love with the country, and I hope one of these five places do the trick!
And while you’re visiting, you can practice your Spanish! Locals are very kind to tourists, so don’t be shy to try some Spanish phrases every now and then during your trip. You may practice while you ask for directions or while ordering some food at a restaurant. You will get plenty of opportunities to practice and learn new things. Be sure to study our Spanish for Dummies guide before you go!Read More
My guess is that no matter who you are or where your interests lie, you could probably win the final round of any game show that included famous quotes.
You would not be shaken by “To be, or not to be.” “Houston, we have a problem” would not be a problem.
“Let them eat cake” would be more of a cakewalk than a piece of cake. And, of course, for those who love Toy Story, we all know who has a “snake in their boot.”
But, besides winning game shows, what is the point of quotes? All the phrases listed in your final game show round are famous for a reason; but why? Is it just because we say them all the time, or do we use them to make references that help us sound more intelligent? The easy answer is, of course, always dependent on the user. However, the reality is that quotes are markers of historic events and of the people that have impacted history.
Not convinced? Let’s take a panoramic look at how using Spanish quotes can show us the history and treasures of any Spanish-speaking country. For example, let’s try Guatemala and see what we can find.
Guatemala: In the beginning
“Los secretos mágicos de sus abuelos les fueron revelados por voces que vivieron por el camino del silencio de la noche.”– Polpol Vuh- “Me llamo Rigoberta Menchu y así me nació la Conciencia” 1997 pg 84
“The magical secrets of their grandparents were revealed to them by voices that lived on the path of the night’s silence.”
Every country, culture, and family has its own folklore. The beginning story of the indigenous peoples in Guatemala consists of pre-ancestors who were full of wisdom and lived in the darkness before creation (in other words, the silent paths of the night). The first of our Spanish quotes comes directly from the original text called Polpol Vuh, which is written in the Mayan dialect of ‘Quiche.’ To make a long folklore story short, the grandfathers, after many interesting attempts, created man from corn. This, therefore, pushed the story from creation to consumption.
Guatemala: Surviving and Thriving
“Sembrado para comer es sagrado sustento del hombre que fue hecho de maíz. Sembrado por negocio es hambre del hombre que fue hecho de maíz.” – Miguel Ángel Asturias- “Hombre de Maíz” 1949 pg 73
“(Corn) sown to eat is a sacred sustenance for man who was made from corn. (Corn) sown for business is hunger of man (also) made by corn.”
Today, Guatemala is considered one of the most historically preserved countries in Latin America due to the fact that the indigenous community makes up almost half of the population! As a result, the idea that they are “Hombres de Maiz,” or “Men of Corn,” is a huge part of national pride and survival. This Spanish quote by the brilliant Guatemalan historian, Miguel Ángel Asturias, describes the balance of cultural progression perfectly: honor your culture to remember where you came from, but also use that culture to provide for the future. Speaking of the future…
Guatemala: Leading the future
“Mi padre decía: hay quienes les toca dar sangre y hay a quien le toca dar fuerzas; entonces mientras podamos, demos la fuerza.” – Rigoberta Menchú – “Me llamo Rigoberta Menchú y así me nació la Conciencia” 1997 pg 208
“My father would say: there are those who must give blood and there are some who must give strength; so while we can, let’s give strength.”
It is no secret that Guatemala has had its unimaginable trials. For instance, racism, genocide, and corruption are a few of the obstacles that these “Men of Corn” have had to overcome. However, this game-changing Spanish quote comes from an inspirational indigenous woman named Rigoberta Menchú. She is a leader in political justice, an advocate for women’s rights, and the beautiful result of combined influences from the writings of Polpol Vuh and Miguel Ángel Asturias. In other words, she has been a true leader by inspiring Guatemalans to follow their dreams, which now brings us to present day Guatemala.
Guatemala: Pursuing Passion
“Ya no somos los mismos. Disminuyen los latidos y avanzamos con un respiro agitado; acumulamos cansancio y regresamos cada noche con la voz y los pasos cansados. Dejamos de ser los mismos: ya no vemos lo mismo en el espejo. Somos el álbum lleno de estampas agotamos sus hojas.”
– Jose Carlos Payeras- “Entonces la Vida” 2019 pg 45
“We’re not the same anymore. Our heartbeats decrease, and we continue with restless breath; we accumulate weariness and return every night with our tired voices and steps. We stop being the same: we don’t see the same thing in the mirror anymore. We are an album full of stamps. We wear out all of its pages.”
If you feel like this final Spanish quote is heavy, think again. Looking back on the distance Guatemala has traveled through these four historic voices reflects a people that are always moving forward. From creation to consumption, from revolution to new opportunities: this final quote is from a fresh, self-made author in Antigua, Guatemala. By day, Jose Carlos Payeras is a talented chef at an adored restaurant in Antigua Guatemala, but by night he pursues his most focused passion for writing. As he mentions in the last of our Spanish quotes, we are never the same. That is to say, words form us, direct history, and inspire those around us.
Treasures in Spanish quotes: Now it’s your turn!
So, do you see how much historical ground we covered? We did not do it by just sitting in a lecture or googling ‘Discovering Guatemala.’ By simply following Spanish quotes, we can learn so much about the timelines, voices, and landmark moments. Spanish quotes are gems. Each Spanish-speaking country has treasure chests full of them. Not convinced? Try it with Spain, Argentina, Mexico, and beyond!
To learn more Spanish with these quotes and others, download our Spanish Quotes Study Guide. You will find an analysis of each quote with explanations of certain grammar topics found in each quote. Review it with your student today!
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